Keywords: Brazilian Steak House | Rodizio-Style Service | Gourmet Salad Bar | International Wine Selection
Churrascaria: Brazilian-style barbecuing where the meat is skewered and cooked over an open flame or on a grill; the meat itself is called churrasco.
Caipirinha: a Brazilian cocktail made with the sugarcane-based spirit cachaca and lime juice.
When owners Vanessa and Ron Wilkerson were opening Samba Rock Acai Café, they encountered many roadblocks along the way. For instance, the city assessed there would be a $30,000 traffic-impact fee for their restaurant. So the duo improvised. They built an indoor bike parking area, reducing the fee while still providing customers a place to park their wheels. This is just one example in which Ron has defied what some might see as a career-ending set-back. In 1988, the former professional BMX Freestyle rider fell into a coma after failing to land a no-hander, no-footer trick on his bike. Though some might have given up after a life-threatening experience like that—he suffered short-term memory loss and even forgot some of the BMX tricks that he had pioneered—Ron got back on his bike. And if he hadn’t, he would never have traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil, met Vanessa, married her, or opened Samba Rock Acai Café.
The menu at Samba Rock Acai Café pays homage to the country where the Wilkersons met and where Vanessa grew up. Blended Brazilian berries and mix-ins, such as bananas and peanut butter, make up the base for their acai bowls. They crown this base with toppings such as fresh fruit, avocado, coconut cream, and granola. Their smoothies also feature acai, as well as organic ingredients, which have never been tainted by spray tanners to look more appealing to customers. To round out their South American-inspired menu, they serve yerba mate—steeped leaves of the mate plant—with acai to sweeten each sip.
"Steak house" is usually shorthand for fine dining that includes steak, but meat is truly the main event at Cleo's Brazilian Steak House. Modeled after a traditional Brazilian rodizio, the eatery spotlights more than 15 rotisserie meats, including sirloins seasoned in garlic or wrapped in bacon. Lamb, pork, chicken, and even grilled pineapple round out the rotisserie selection, which Cleo's team carves right at your table.
The buffet's salad fixings and other sides, such as rice and green beans, can accompany meals, as can beverages ranging from sangria to fresh juices. End Cleo's hearty feasts on a sweet note with desserts such as papaya cream spiked with cassis liqueur, a summertime treat more popular in Brazil than cookies shaped like Pelé.
The epicurean alchemists at Medallion Steakhouse start with organic produce, and grass- and corn-fed beef and chicken raised on local farms and transform them into fine, innovative dishes. Specialists tend the raw oyster bar, where guests sidle up to string necklaces of pearls from varieties such as Fanny Bay, Marin Miyagi, and Kumamoto oysters. With their appetites roused, diners then settle down into oversize booths padded with plush pillows to dig into farm-fresh entrees. Smells of sizzling 14-ounce grass-fed steaks and roasted chicken breasts from Petaluma Farms swirl through the air between the restaurant’s exposed-brick wall hung with red-and-white-framed mirrors. A wall of white birch tree trunks and soft sounds of a waterfall's trickle keep diners comforted as they linger for a forkful of hazelnut dark-chocolate mousse and sips of spirits such as a 20-year-old tawny port and Godiva white-chocolate liqueur.
Behind The Cheese Steak Shop's refreshingly simple name lies an American treasure: the Philly cheesesteak. The first Cheese Steak Shop was founded in 1982 by Pennsylvania transplant Keith Layton who set out to do his beloved meal right with top-shelf ingredients and sourcing all of the peppers, Tastycakes, Amoroso rolls, and pithy Ben Franklin quotes straight from the City of Brotherly Love. Inside each toasty, hearth-baked roll, strips of thinly-sliced sirloin, tender chicken, earthy mushrooms, or zesty pepperoni sizzle beneath a smothering layer of provolone or American cheese.
The Vibe: The Brazen Head looks like it exists in a different time and place—say, Manchester in the 1960s. Old news clippings and portraits line the walls, and dark woods stretch back as far as the eye can see, which isn’t that far thanks to the dim lighting and heavy drapes that block out excess sunlight.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Swing by The Brazen Head’s sister restaurant, Liverpool Lil’s (2942 Lyon Street), for classic British pub grub such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.